Sen. Isakson Defends Government Surveillance Program

June 10, 2013

WABE News
Jonathan Shapiro

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) is defending the government surveillance program revealed to be gathering call logs from millions of Verizon phone subscribers.

Speaking after a conference in downtown Atlanta, Iskason said it’s been an important tool in preventing terrorist attacks.

“I can’t talk about some of the things that I know with regard to what our security procedures are, but I am satisfied that there’s no violation of the civil rights of an American citizen in there.”

The National Security Agency and others in the intelligence community are authorized to collect the call logs under 2001’s Patriot Act. Congress maintains oversight and federal judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court must approve all data requests. In 2011, Congress renewed the Patriot Act for an additional four years.

Protestors Rally Outside Drone Conference in Buckhead

May 29, 2013

Protestors Rally Outside Drone Conference in Buckhead

90.1 FM WABE
Jonathan Shapiro

Protestors gathered in Atlanta Tuesday to rally against the nation’s drone strike program. They demonstrated outside a Buckhead hotel currently hosting a national conference on drone aircraft.

As nearby cars whizzed by Peachtree Street, long-time Atlanta civil rights advocate and Air Force veteran Joe Beasley said the drone strikes need to stop.

“I would implore President Obama to move away from these drones. It’s just deplorable. It’s just cowardice,” said Beasley.

He was flanked by about two dozen protestors with signs calling for an end to the nation’s drone strike program.

The rally comes just a week after the president vowed to dramatically reduce drone strikes and make the program more transparent. He said there'd be a new emphasis on capturing suspects instead of killing them and targeting only those who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the U.S. He also pledged to transfer oversight of the program from the CIA to the Pentagon, a move that would make more information available to the public.

But at the rally, Georgia ACLU attorney Azadeh Shahshahani said the president didn't go far enough.

“To the extent that there’s going to be extra oversight, that’s good, but it doesn’t end the problem that the program is going to continue and people far from any battlefield without charge or trial are going to be killed,” said Shahshahani.

A recent Gallup poll shows 65 percent of Americans support the use of drone strikes against suspected terrorists based overseas. That number drops to 41 percent when targeting U.S. citizens in other countries who are suspected of terrorism.

Speaking at a press conference in Washington after the president’s counterterrorism remarks, Georgia’s Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, argued the use of covert drone strikes remains a vital tool in the War on Terror.

“To open the books, so to speak, on the drone program does not make America a safer place to live.”

And at an event held Tuesday in Sandy Springs, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson called drone technology “remarkable” and expressed support for the continued use of drones in intelligence-gathering and terrorist assassinations.

“The day we decide we are no longer going to participate is the day the terrorists have won that battle and they will hold us to cower in fear,” said Isakson.

But Georgia State University political science professor Chip Carey said at the rally the use of targeted drone strikes is “shortsighted.” He argued drones kill civilians and thereby breed more terrorists. Plus, he said, the technological gap is closing quickly.

“Between 50 to 70 countries have drone technology now including Iran. It’s only a matter of time before what goes around will come around."

Carey argued drones pose as much danger as chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, and therefore should be tightly controlled. He wants the U.S. to enter into a binding international arms treaty banning their use.

The Future of American Warfare? Assessing the Legality of the Obama Administration's Use of Military Drones

May 21, 2013

The Georgia Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society presents:

The Future of American Warfare?

Assessing the Legality of the Obama Administration's Use of Military Drones

Wednesday, June 5, 2013
6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Bondurant Mixson & Elmore LLP
One Atlantic Center
1201 West Peachtree Street
Suite 3200
Atlanta, GA

Featuring:

  • The Honorable Bob Barr, Former United States Representative, 7th Congressional District of Georgia; Former Presidential Candidate, Libertarian Party
  • Laurie Blank, Director, International Humanitarian Law Clinic, Emory University School of Law
  • Azadeh Shahshahani, National Security/Immigrant Rights Project Director, American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia
  • Todd Stein, Lecturer, Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology; Former General Counsel, Legislative Director, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT)

Moderated By:

  • Neil Kinkopf, Professor of Law, Georgia State University College of Law; Former Special Assistant, Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice; Member, Board of Advisors, ACS Georgia Lawyer Chapter

To what extent does the United States Constitution and current federal law authorize the use of military drones in counter-terrorism operations? Come hear a panel discussion on the constitutionality of President Obama’s policy on the use of drones, including the limits to their use, whether and when they could be used on American citizens, and the merits of constitutional concerns raised on the political left and the political right.

RSVP here

The ACLU of Georgia National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project is celebrating its fifth anniversary!

March 27, 2013

The ACLU of Georgia National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project is celebrating its fifth anniversary! Founded in March 2008, the project works to bring Georgia into compliance with international human rights and U.S. constitutional standards in treatment of refugees and immigrant communities, including those in detention. This project engages ACLU of Georgia staff and volunteers in litigation, legislative advocacy, human rights documentation, coalition-building, public education, attorney training, and community organizing to address a range of issues. Here you can find a few of our accomplishments over the past five years.

Download Brochure >>

ACLU of Georgia's Azadeh Shahshahani is featured in this article about Asian-Americans in Southern politics.

March 14, 2013

Azadeh Shahshahani, 34
Human Rights Lawyer, Georgia

Azadeh Shahshahani has been a prominent human rights advocate in the South for eight years. Currently the director of national security and immigrant rights at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Georgia chapter, Shahshahani, 34, remains at the forefront of several campaigns to help those who often do not have a voice within the state’s and nation’s legal framework.

Shahshahani was among those who led the fight against HB 87, a Georgia law that closely mirrors the Arizona immigration law, enabling local law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone believed to have committed even a minor infraction. The law passed in 2011 but her work led to a federal court blocking other parts of the law, including a provision that makes it a crime for anyone to transport or harbor an undocumented immigrant. In the last year, Shahshahani has run over 15 forums in rural Georgia, teaching immigrants about their rights if they get stopped by police.

Much of Shahshahani’s work has also focused on prisoner’s rights. She authored a report in May 2012 detailing poor conditions in the privately run prisons used to detain undocumented immigrants. Most of the problems revolved around abysmal medical care for sick or injured prisoners. Shahshahani has written prolifically in print media and given TV interviews on the need for immigration authorities to stop using private companies to run prisons. These private firms are “committed to generating money for their investors,” she said.

Read more >>>

ACLU of Georgia's Azadeh Shahshahani is featured in this article about Asian-Americans in Southern politics

February 27, 2013

Azadeh Shahshahani, 34
Human Rights Lawyer, Georgia

Azadeh Shahshahani has been a prominent human rights advocate in the South for eight years. Currently the director of national security and immigrant rights at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Georgia chapter, Shahshahani, 34, remains at the forefront of several campaigns to help those who often do not have a voice within the state’s and nation’s legal framework.

Shahshahani was among those who led the fight against HB 87, a Georgia law that closely mirrors the Arizona immigration law, enabling local law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone believed to have committed even a minor infraction. The law passed in 2011 but her work led to a federal court blocking other parts of the law, including a provision that makes it a crime for anyone to transport or harbor an undocumented immigrant. In the last year, Shahshahani has run over 15 forums in rural Georgia, teaching immigrants about their rights if they get stopped by police.

- See more >>

Privacy of Students Targeted for Military Recruitment

September 11, 2012

With the start of the school year, the ACLU Foundation of Georgia has sent a letter to Georgia’s State School Superintendent, Dr. Barge, asking for protection of privacy rights of Georgia’s high school students who take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (“ASVAB”) test. The ASVAB test is the military's entrance exam, given to recruits to determine their aptitude for military occupations. Even without a student’s or parent’s consent, the ASVAB test may be used to send highly sensitive information about a student to the military for purposes of recruitment. After the administration of the ASVAB test, military representatives may directly communicate with youth to suggest military career paths, based on the individualized profiles ascertained from their test data.

According to records obtained by the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy, Georgia schools have one of the worst records nationally in protecting the privacy of students taking the ASVAB test. In its letter, the ACLU of Georgia asks that a state-wide policy that requires schools to protect such information be adopted in Georgia

Read the Letter Here

Show Me Your Papers - Or Else Blog by Staff Member Azadeh Shahshahani

August 30, 2012

AJC Blog
8/30/2012
Azadeh Shahshahani

By blocking Georgia’s attempts to criminalize acts of hospitality, faith, and conscience, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a decision that affects the daily lives of many people in Georgia.

One of these is Everitt Howe, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, a caseworker for his church’s community service program. Howe regularly accompanies and drives families and individuals, including those who are undocumented, to hospital visits or other appointments. He fears that could be found criminally liable. Because of people like Howe, we are pleased the court blocked this fundamentally un-American provision.

The ruling was issued pursuant to a lawsuit brought by the ACLU and other organizations charging that the extreme law endangers public safety, invites racial profiling of people of color and others who look or sound “foreign,” and interferes with federal law. The court’s ruling made it clear that the state cannot put into effect policies that could interfere with the federal government’s regulation of immigration. The court struck down the provision criminalizing daily interactions with undocumented individuals, which would have made people vulnerable to arrest and detention for acts of kindness.

Another part of the law before the court was the “show-me-your-papers” provision. The court reiterated there are limits on such laws under the Supreme Court’s decision in the Arizona case. It left the door open to future challenges.

HB 87 promotes racial profiling by giving police officers discretion to determine what information is “sufficient” to prove a person’s identity and choose who to subject to an investigation. This will lead to the profiling of anyone who looks or sounds “foreign.” The statute undermines fundamental American values of fairness and equal protection.

Law enforcement leaders and police chiefs around the country have cautioned against putting local police in the position of enforcing federal immigration laws for fear it will alienate the communities endanger the public. Many immigrants will not come forward with crime information for fear they will be detained and investigated. As ACLU of Georgia investigations show, immigrant communities in Cobb and Gwinnett already fear the police. They are reluctant to report crime because of these counties’ involvement in immigration enforcement. This has led to an atmosphere of terror and isolation for immigrants and less-safe communities.

Take the 2009 case of a woman who called 911 to stop her partner from assaulting her. Cobb County officers relied on the abuser’s account of what happened, as she spoke little English. Her abuser’s side of the story was far from honest. She was separated from her infant daughter, spent five days in jail and was placed in deportation.

The ACLU and our partner organizations will forge ahead until unconstitutional provisions of HB 87 are struck down – or until this racial profiling law is repealed in its entirety.

ACLU has created “Know Your Rights” video clips in English and Spanish:

August 21, 2012

Audio/Video Gallery In response to the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals decisions on the Arizona and Georgia anti-immigrant laws, the ACLU has put out “Know Your Rights” video clips in English and Spanish.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6zKYeY725s

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5E5uJx-Vfns

Please share with other community members. The ACLU of Georgia will also continue to monitor and document cases of racial profiling around the state. If you have faced racial profiling, please contact us at info@acluga.org

ACLU of Georgia’s Azadeh Shahshahani writes about the unchecked powers granted to the Immigration Enforcement Review Board and their latest investigation targeting the City of Vidalia.

August 13, 2012

Jurist, Friday, August 10, 2012

Unchecked Power Granted by House Bill 87

JURIST Guest Columnist Azadeh Shahshahani National Security/Immigrant Rights' Project Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia says that the unchecked power of the Immigration Enforcement Review Board set up by House Bill 87 is cause for great concern ...

Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Georgia (ACLUGA) was joined by more than a dozen organizations in issuing a letter [PDF] to Immigration Enforcement Review Board (the Board) Chairman Benjamin J. Vinson, laying out concerns with how the Board may apply the powers granted to it in the case of Michael Dale Smith v. City of Vidalia.
The Board was set up by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act, commonly known as House Bill 87(HB 87), to investigate complaints against public agencies or employees pertaining to violations of or failure to "properly enforce" provisions of HB 87 among other Georgia laws and to impose penalties, including $1,000-$5,000 fines and loss of state funding.

There are serious concerns about the extent of the powers granted to the Board. For one thing, there is no clear and objective standard for the issuance of subpoenas within the Board's rules, or any clear processes for appealing the issuance of a subpoena or obtaining a remedy for an inappropriately issued subpoena. The ability of the Board — a non-judicial, non-elected body — to compel attendance and testimony based solely on the request of a private citizen under the unclear standard of "good cause shown" allows for personal agendas to result in subpoenas.

The Board's rules [PDF] also set it apart from the time-tested system of governmental checks and balances. There is no mechanism for reviewing the Board's final determinations to strip funding from public entities or levy fines against individuals and employers. This potential application of the Board's unchecked power is particularly concerning in the instant case.

On June 29, 2012, the Board conducted a meeting in part to discuss a complaint Smith reportedly filed with the Board on March 5, 2012, alleging that Vidalia was a "sanctuary city." Smith requested that the Board review and enforce the anti-sanctuary law enacted in 2009 against Vidalia's alleged "catch-and-release" immigration policies. Smith has alleged that businesses in Vidalia are acting in conjunction with the city to provide sanctuary to the undocumented immigrant workforce. He has alleged that catch-and-release incidents have occurred from 2006 until the present and he specifically mentioned the private company Lark Industries as an alleged offender. Counsel for the city of Vidalia has reportedly responded to a letter from the Board denying it is a sanctuary city and stating that it has never adopted or enforced any sanctuary policies.

Despite concerns expressed by members of the Board, it unanimously voted to create the Vidalia review panel to complete a preliminary investigation.

As the ACLUGA emphasized in our letter, despite Smith's allegations concerning Lark Industries and other businesses within the city of Vidalia, any investigation this review panel conducts must be restricted to public entities. The ACLUGA also requested an explanation as to what authority the review panel possesses to investigate alleged violations of Georgia immigration laws that are said to have occurred before the creation of the Board. Additionally, we have also sought clarification regarding what authority the Board possesses to potentially issue sanctions for violations that are found to have occurred prior to the Board's creation.

The ACLUGA also questioned why a review panel was created to investigate Smith's accusations against Vidalia in the first place when Board members have described his complaint as "vague" and lacking in important specific details such as names, dates and locations. We asked for clarification as to how Smith's complaint actually met the prima facie standard that the Board's rules require before a complaint may be considered by the Board.

Following Vidalia's denial as to the existence of city sanctuary policies, Vinson again contacted Smith and asked him to produce any other documentation of a sanctuary policy. Smith's reply, in Vinson's words, was to "essentially [ask] us to investigate and find it." Smith is in effect requesting that the Board procure the evidence that would prove his accusations correct.

If Smith's nameless, dateless and location-free complaint is considered by the Board to have constituted the "sufficient facts" necessary to establish a prima facie threshold, then the said standard of consideration leaves the Board's complaint process ripe for abuse and misuse by any persons who desire to accuse public agencies and employees as they please without fulfilling any burden of proof. To attain the attention and public-funded resources of a body such as the Board, a complainant must do more than merely accuse without greater specificity.

It is of great concern that, following the Smith decision, the Board has authorized its complaint process to amount to what is essentially a fishing expedition. It must immediately stop spending public resources on this unnecessary and wasteful venture. The governor and the legislature must also establish checks and balances for this body — otherwise we are likely to see abuses of power committed at public's expense.

Azadeh Shahshahani focuses her work on Georgia's compliance with international human rights and constitutional standards. Recently, she was elected President of the National Lawyers Guild and is one of the Founders of Human Rights Atlanta.

http://jurist.org/hotline/2012/08/azadeh-shahshahani-hb87-immigration.php